The U.S. Justice Department said on Monday that it will not tolerate attacks on people seeking abortions in Texas, days after the state’s new abortion ban took effect.
The law, also known as the Heartbeat Act, bans abortion after 6 weeks of pregnancy, when an ultrasound detects a fetal heartbeat. Additional abortion care, like medical counseling and support, also is included in the ban. The legislation leaves enforcement up to individual citizens, enabling them to sue anyone who provides or “aids and abets” an abortion after approximately 6 weeks of pregnancy.
U.S. Department of Justice Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said in a statement that the department is “urgently exploring all options to challenge Texas SB8 in order to protect the constitutional rights of women and other persons.” The department, he said, “will continue to protect those seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health services pursuant to our criminal and civil enforcement of the FACE Act.”1
The Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE Act) passed in 1994 and prohibits the use of force and physical obstruction to interfere with a person obtaining or providing reproductive health services.2 It also prohibits intentional property damage of a facility providing reproductive health services. According to the statement, “the department has consistently obtained criminal and civil remedies for violations of the FACE Act since it was signed into law in 1994, and it will continue to do so now.”1
The North American Society for Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology (NASPAG) is one of the many physician groups in opposition of SB8, stating that “physicians must be able to practice medicine that is informed by their years of medical education, training, experience, and the available evidence, freely and without the threat of punishment, harassment, or retribution.
The department will provide support from federal law enforcement when an abortion clinic or reproductive health center is under attack and has already contacted the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and nationwide FBI field offices to discuss enforcement strategies.1